The Izzys embody the DIY spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, building their own gear and bringing their music to the masses with a string of self-recorded albums. On The Violent Bear It Away, released in September on Fat Man, the members of the Brooklyn band step back from their reputation as an all-out rock band and deliver a set of country-soul tunes whose authenticity belies the fact that the Izzys are from New York City. Here, lead singer Mike Storey talks about playing live, the new album, and the increasingly blurry line that differentiates “rock” from “country.”
How has the band evolved musically on The Violent Bear It Away?
We started out as a kicking-and-screaming rock band with a lot of energy but little subtlety. Now we can pull off the country-soul stuff and more country in general. And it’s going to go even further on the next album; we’re tapping into the country aspect even more. It’s fun to make noise, but I wouldn’t trade what we had then with what we have now for a million bucks.
How do you translate your sound to a live show?
We’re best live. There’s no better way to experience the Izzys than when we’re hanging by a thread and [Tim Kuhl’s] snare crack is the only keeping us there. We take the songs apart and put them back together.
What covers do you play?
We play an assortment of tunes: "Cocaine Blues,” "Shake ’em on Down,” "Mama Tried,” "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down." Whatever suits our fancy, really. We get bored easily, so we try to mix it up.
What does the crowd for one of your gigs look like?
The one thing about this band that never ceases to amaze me is the variety of people who come to see us. There are old folkies and musician’s musicians, hipsters and squares, people off the street. The Izzys play for the young and old, the healthy and infirm. I think our music just makes sense to a lot of people.
I was blown away by The Violent Bear It Away. How did you pick the title?
I wanted to name it the same title of the picture on the front cover, the one of the revolver, but I got vetoed by the guys. Steve suggested The Violent Bear It Away, off of the song on the album. It’s a dark album at times, so it made sense. Just in case anyone’s curious: It’s to do with the Bible, not Flannery O’Connor — although I suspect she probably read the Bible.
How did you choose the arrangement of the tracks on the album?
That was the guys once again. I wonder if it even matters. Music listening is about iPods and whatnot these days. Do people even listen albums in their entirety anymore? What do your readers say?
Speaking of iTunes, your album comes up as “rock.” What’s the line between rock and country right now?
I don’t like calling the Izzys a rock band because it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Music genres have become very splintered. We play rock in the sense that it’s influenced by a culmination of all sorts of strains leading up to rock, including country, honky-tonk, rockabilly and jump blues. Country rock is a damning title at best. What did The Dude say? “Come on man. I had a rough night and I hate the fuckin’ Eagles.”
Are you going to release a single from the album?
I think the Australian label is going to go that route starting with “Call My Name.” We are not. However, I’ll let market forces decide which is the single. I think that although they’re not the obvious singles, “Slow Drag,” “The Violent Bear It Away,” and “Gone” are the dark horses of this album.
What does the upcoming year hold for the Izzys?
We’re putting a couple of videos together for some of the songs from the album, but the most important thing is a new recording of about nine songs that we hope to have out right after the new year. We’ll also be setting up a new residency in Brooklyn to complement the one we play in Manhattan [at Lakeside Lounge every first Saturday of the month].